Truck drivers in Tema are threatening to boycott transporting goods from Tema Port in protest of the abandonment of stranded colleagues at the border town between Benin and Niger, following the border’s closure.
This move is in solidarity with over 200 Ghanaians who became stranded after the borders were closed on orders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in opposition to the military takeover in Niger. These drivers were carrying transit goods primarily from Tema Port to Niger, while others were transporting onions from Niger to Ghana.
In a video made available to B&FT, the stranded drivers – who have been there for more than a month – are seen appealing for government to intervene and get them out of harm’s way.
Some drivers at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority’s (GPHA) truck park in Tema mentioned that families of these Ghanaians visit the park daily to inquire about developments, and beg for alms to meet their daily needs.
“We must raise funds and support the wives and children of our brothers who are stranded at the border. We have seen videos of them pleading with government to come to their aid, but little has been done,” one of the drivers told B&FT.
Commenting on the situation, Ibrahim Musah, the Executive Secretary of the Joint Association of Port Transport Unions (JAPTU) Ghana, lamented the predicament some of the drivers, conductors, and truck owners find themselves in.
“All the money they had on them is exhausted and they are struggling to survive. They cannot even feed themselves, let alone send money to their relatives. Some have resorted to working as farmhands in the border town just to sustain themselves and stay alive. I receive calls from truck owners inquiring about the situation; I have no positive news for them.”
He urged government to swiftly intervene and facilitate safe crossing for the stranded drivers and their trucks over the borders to their respective destinations. He also expressed concern that Ghana’s decision to support an ECOWAS military action against the military takeover in Niger has put Ghanaian nationals who are stranded in danger.
It was reported that following the intervention of Ghana’s Ambassador to Benin, the border was briefly opened for just two hours and then closed again. According to the truck drivers, this action was insufficient as many more drivers remain abandoned.
“If government does not take prompt action, we will send them a strong message through a boycott of the port. This situation could have happened to any of us, and we need to show our solidarity. When you see the videos they are sending to us, it’s truly heartbreaking. We even heard that one of our brothers was seriously injured, and things are getting more difficult by the day,” another driver told B&FT.
“I think it’s inhumane. ECOWAS should lift the sanctions. Similar situations have occurred elsewhere but the sanctions were not as severe. ECOWAS was initially established to facilitate the free movement of goods and people. This means that ECOWAS is for the people. In times of crisis, there must be no double standards,” said the representative, who pleaded anonymity.
Checks at the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) revealed that, already, several measures have been taken to address the stranded drivers’ plight.
A meeting has been held with stakeholders and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration on the development; the drivers have also been sensitised to the dos and don’ts during such circumstances, and have been encouraged to offer peer advice.
The ministry conferred with the Burkina Faso Shippers Council to develop interim trade guidelines that will help in re-routing trucks through Benin.
On 26 July 2023, a coup d’état occurred in the Republic of the Niger when the country’s presidential guard detained President Mohamed Bazoum, and presidential guard commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani proclaimed himself the leader of a new military junta shortly after declaring the coup a success.